That was the advice that Dad always gave me when I called him with car trouble. Dad was a mechanic; he could fix anything. Our conversations went something like this:
Me: My car sounds funny.
Dad: Funny, how?
Me: It’s making a funny noise when I try to start it.
Dad: What kind of noise, like a click-click, or a whir, what?
Me: I don’t know, a noise. What difference does it make?
Dad: Well, if it’s a click-click it could be…
At about that moment is when I stopped listening and Dad, a man not known for his patience and sensitivity would start to get mad. Jesus Christ Blondie, go try to start the car and call me back and tell me what the noise sounds like.
So rolling my eyes, I would go to the car and try to start it. The call back went something like this:
Me: I think it’s a whirr or maybe a click
Dad: By now completely and totally over me and my bullshit would yell at me.
Does it have gas?
Does it have oil?
Does it have… whatever other liquid can go in a car.
Me, in my infinite me-ness would reply, I don’t know, maybe. How often do you need oil, anyway? I could, I imagined, feel the phone getting hotter in my hand as he got more and more irritated. What, I liked to poke him with sticks. It was like a sport. Don’t judge me.
It would generally turn out that I was out of gas or the one time that I forgot to put the car in park before I shut it off and it wouldn’t start again. Yeah, he drove all the way to Taunton from Boston for that little piece of mechanical mishap. Oops.
By the time my problem was resolved, I had lost him to his temper and annoyance. How many times, he would say, do I need to tell you, YOU ALWAYS CHECK YOUR FLUIDS FIRST! 99 times out of a 100 your problem will be something simple and easy to fix.
The funny thing is, it has become my mantra over the years as I try to solve problems and keep my life on track. I say it at least once a day. People generally look at me like I’m crazy (I know, right) but I explain it’s a reminder to not overlook the obvious. Computer not working. Check the power cords, is everything plugged in correctly? Maybe restart it. Don’t start with a call to the computer repair man. Check the obvious and eliminate that.
Dad was right. That sound you hear, yeah, that’s Dad laughing. Most problems are easily solvable if you just apply a little commonsense – something I had precious little of in my youth. Don’t let the situation overwhelm you. Have a plan for dealing with the problems you will face.
And always, always remember: CHECK YOUR FLUIDS FIRST!